Tears are very important for keeping the eyes healthy and feeling good. They are also beneficial for good vision. The act of blinking is what spreads the tears across the eye, keeping the eye's surface clear and smooth. When the eyes do not produce enough tears, the right kind of tears, or the tears that are produced do not properly reach the eye, dry eye can occur.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
- Stinging or burning feeling in the eye.
- Scratchy or gritty feeling like there issomething in the eye.
- Strings of mucus in or around the eyes.
- Red or irritated eyes.
- Painful when wearing contact lenses.
- Excessive tearing. The eyes often respond to dry eye by over-producing tears.
Causes of Dry Eye
As people age, their eyes tend to make fewer tears. While men and women both get dry eye, it is more common in women due to hormone changes caused by menopause. The following are some causes of dry eye:
- Certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, sjögren’s syndrome, thyroid disease, and lupus.
- Blepharitis (when eyelids are swollen or red.)
- Meibomian Gland Dysfunction.
- Entropion (when lower eyelids turn inward); ectropion (lower eyelids turn outward.)
- Being in smoke, wind or a very dry climate.
- Activities that reduce blinking such as looking at a computer screen or reading for extended periods of time.
- Wearing contact lenses for long periods of time.
- Having refractive eye surgery, such as LASIK.
- Certain medicines can also contribute to dry eye include:
Diuretics (water pills) for high blood pressure
Beta-blockers for heart problems or high blood pressure
Allergy medicines (antihistamines)
Dry Eye Treatments
Mild dry eye symptoms may be treated with over-the-counter medications such as artificial tears, gels and ointments. Artificial tears are eye drops that are like your own tears. You can use artificial tears as often as you need to, and can buy them without a prescription. There are many brands on the market, so try a few until you find a brand that works best for you.
If you use artificial tears more than six times a day or are allergic to preservatives, you should use preservative-free tears. If artificial tears with preservatives are used frequently, these chemicals may start to irritate your eyes.
Depending on your specific condition, Dr. Victor may suggest blocking the tear ducts. This makes your natural tears stay in your eyes longer. Tiny silicone or gel plugs (called punctal plugs) are inserted in the tear ducts at the inner corners of the eye to keep tears on the eyes longer. Punctal occulsion is a simple in office procedure to provide longer contact time with a patient's own tears. In severe cases, surgical closure of the drainage ducts by thermal punctal cautery may be recommended to close the tear ducts permanently.